In hogs, H1N1 may be just another flu: CFIA

Researchers’ early observations of how the human strain of H1N1 influenza affects hogs suggest they get sick, then recover naturally, as they would from any other flu virus seen in hog herds worldwide.

Though it acknowledges more study is needed, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) made that early assessment after having mapped the full genetic sequence of H1N1 found in a central Alberta hog herd.

CFIA announced May 2 that it had quarantined a herd of over 2,000 hogs and later confirmed a number of animals had the human strain of H1N1, believed to be a combination of swine, avian and human flu strains. The virus is presumed to have jumped to the hog herd from a carpenter who worked in the hogs’ barns after returning from Mexico.

Working with the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, CFIA said Friday it now has a “complete picture” of the virus found on the Clearwater County farm.

The mapping, CFIA said, “validates early test results and confirms that the virus found in the pigs is the same as the virus causing illness in humans around the world.”

CFIA said it will share the diagnostic methods developed to identify the novel H1N1 influenza in swine with provinces and territories, international agencies and other countries to facilitate surveillance and detection activities.

Influenza viruses do not affect the safety of properly handled and cooked pork, the agency reiterated.

Alberta is also home to Canada’s lone death associated with H1N1, a woman in the northern part of the province who died April 28 and was confirmed May 8 as having had the virus.

Although the Public Health Agency of Canada counts the woman’s death as H1N1-related, a provincial pathology report released Thursday (May 14) finds the immediate cause of her death “inconclusive.”

“These results were not unexpected,” Dr. Andre Corriveau, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Thursday.

“Some people are more susceptible to the flu than others. In all cases with chronic pre-existing medical conditions, those patients are always at greater risk, and even when we do further testing, it is not always clear what the immediate cause of death may have been.”

As of Friday, the Alberta case remained the sole death among 496 lab-confirmed cases of H1N1 in people in Canada, mostly in Ontario (187), B.C. (100), Alberta (67) and Nova Scotia (66).

Worldwide, as of Monday morning, 8,829 cases of lab-confirmed H1N1 have been reported in 40 countries, including 74 deaths. Reported cases were mostly in the U.S. (4,714, including four deaths) and Mexico (3,103, including 68 deaths). Japan, Spain and the U.K. have each reported over 100 cases and no deaths.

Corriveau reiterated that the virus “will re-appear in the fall or winter, and we need to remain vigilant. So our advice remains the same: stay home if you are sick, wash your hands often, and sneeze or cough into your sleeve — not your hand.”

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